The Haines Borough Public Library resumed offering pickup service this week after closing March 25, but that may end Tuesday when the assembly will vote on a draft resolution to stop the exchange of any materials, even pickups.

Library director Carolynn Goolsby closed the library last month. “I told people to stay home because of the (borough’s) shelter-in-place order and we hadn’t been declared an essential service,” Goolsby said. “The library wasn’t specifically mentioned as exempt.”

In his draft resolution, which would end pickup services, assembly member Paul Rogers cited state health mandate 2.1 that closes all libraries, museums and archives.

Alaska state librarian Patience Frederiksen wrote health mandate 2.1. The last provision of the mandate states that the public can still be served through “modes that preserve the highest degree of social distancing possible.”

“I was thinking about curbside when I wrote that last phrase,” Frederiksen told the CVN. “The mandate clearly allows for ways to provide service to the public, but they have to do it with health safety in mind.”

Frederiksen said despite the mandate, the issue is one for the borough to settle. “It’s a local-control issue. The state library does not control or direct the work of public libraries statewide.”

After the Haines library closed in March, several members of the public wrote letters to the assembly requesting that it reopen for pickup. Items are available wrapped in brown paper and left on a table in the foyer.

“I realize the great and real concern for everyone’s health and protection, but if there is a way to stay safe and still offer library materials to this community, I strongly urge you to do so—for everyone from young children to our oldest residents,” Carol Flegel wrote.

The request met resistance from assembly members Brenda Josephson, Gabe Thomas and Stephanie Scott, all of which cited health concerns and the desire not to violate state mandates as their reason for discontinuing the service.

“I, for one, will not be responsible for the possible spread of this virus to our general public,” Thomas wrote to Flegel. “I also will not be the reason the state possibly issues a $500k fine per person that got sick from the library or open us to a lawsuit.”

The Haines School is checking out books to students via curbside pickup. Across Southeast, libraries in Skagway, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell and Craig are offering some form of curbside pickup. The Juneau Public Library system is mailing materials to residents who had holds before it closed to the public, and is considering continuing that service. The library in Wrangell is telling patrons to keep checked-out materials until the building is reopened to the public.

“We’re just trying to do something to help people who are isolated right now, especially our elderly,” Wrangell library director Margaret Villarma said. “We don’t come into contact with the public at all.”

The Ketchikan Public Library is closed and offers no form of curbside pickup.

In Haines, Goolsby said library staff are asking patrons to not return their books. Goolsby and borough manager Debra Schnabel decided to continue pickup services last week after speaking with the state librarian.

Assembly member Stephanie Scott said she’ll support the complete closure. She said she might feel differently if library staff brought books to people outside the facility, but is concerned about the public picking books up in the foyer.

“I think that anything that we do that encourages people to come together is dangerous and risky,” Scott said. “I don’t want to see anybody in this community become sick with this virus. It will just transmit like a fire if that happens.”

Assembly member Josephson wrote to borough manager Debra Schnabel that Haines “has shown itself to be very risk averse” and that “circulating library materials from the general population to the library staff and then back to the public is a risk that we cannot afford to take.”